Improve Your Batting and Bowling with Clever Constraints | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Improve Your Batting and Bowling with Clever Constraints

Recently, Mark Garaway spoke about the power of using constraints in practice to improve your cricket. This article will give you even more ways to use the same principle across batting and bowling.

If you are not familiar with "constraints led practice", it's really just a fancy way of saying you restrict your options compared to having a practice that is close to a game situation. It's halfway between a skill drill (where you work on a very specific skill in a closed way) and a game of cricket where you are free to do anything without restriction.

We do this kind of practice to allow us to develop specific skills in a more game realistic way. So, in Garas' example article above, he restricted the batsman to three options against spin. This simplified the options and lead to better results.

But enough about why we do this, let's look at what kind of constraint training you can try;

Batting practice

The first question for batting is what kind of feed works best for your needs?

Actual bowlers create an open situation because they can bowl anywhere. So if your goal is to rotate the striek against accurate bowlers and the bowlers are not very accurate, your plan is scuppered. On the other hand, if your goal is to "just bat" and dispatch the bad balls with your favourite shots, you can do it no bother.

Throwdowns and a bowling machine, on the other hand, are marked by accuracy. Many more balls are delivered where you want them to go. So, if your constraints practice is based on a couple of different shots then you are in a good place here.

A Sidearm or other ball thrower sits between these. They are less accurate than a machine but able to extract more turn, bounce and pace than most bowlers.

Then, with the the right feed you can then look at what kind of restrictions you want:

  • Score from every ball (no defensive shots).
  • Score behind square every ball.
  • Hit everything on one side of the wicket (off or leg).
  • Only play two or three kinds of shot (for example, pull and front foot drive)
  • Leave everything outside off stump.
  • Hit the ball through specified targets.

So, for example, an opener might face a bowling machine set to swing the ball both in and away on a good length just outside off stump. The batsman will try to leave everything outside off, play the balls on the stumps through the leg side for singles and drive slightly fuller balls. You can adapt restrictions to any situation.

It's still vital o keep score here because instant feedback is vital to self-improvement. This might be runs judges by you and the coach/feeder, it might be a points system. The details of the method are not as important as keeping some kind of score.

Bowling practice

For bowlers, the principle remains the same: restrict, track and improve.

The best restriction for any bowler is to not have a batsman. I know a lot of bowlers like the batsman there to judge line and length, and to get feedback, but target bowling is super powerful and everyone should get a dose of it.

If you do have a batsman in play, you can still bowl with restriction. In fact, this is what most club and school bowlers do all the time; aim to hit the top of off stump, with an occasional mess about with a variation when bored.

But there are other ways to bowl within constraints:

  • Have two kinds of balls you can bowl. Track how often you hit the target zone for those balls.
  • Have a set of balls you are working on. See some plans here. See how often you can "complete the set".

As with the bastman, tracking and instant feedback is king here. Tools like video, PitchVision and hand notation are all powerful ways to quickly improve.

Progressing constraints

Constraining yourself is a powerful way to develop a skill set. It's a step towards performing in games rather than hitting or delivering balls based around technical perfection. But you do still need to progress to even more open play too.

The process is broadly;

  • develop technique with closed drills.
  • test techniques in constraints practice.
  • test skills in open practice.
  • test skills in games.

You are not restricted to moving one way down this chain. You can go back and forth depending on how well the test goes. If you need to go back to hitting ball from drop feeds to keep your method honed then do it.

As an aside to this you can also test your general ability to "stack" options as you develop more of them. So, for example, if you are working on bowling good line and length and a yorker in one practice, you might have the previous bowler call what kind of ball you have to bowl as you run in. To overload your decision making, the call might be "yorker", "2" "blue" or "variation" (where blue is the cone colour).

This last element is less cricket specific but provides a good fun way to overload your decision-making skills in a cricket environment.

What are your contstraints?

Finally, what type of constraints do you apply to your practice? There are a few listed here but I have been far from comprehensive, so would like to you know how you approach this important style of practice.

Leave a comment and let the community know so we can improve together!

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